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Two months ago we were able to confirm that Trader Joes is finally coming to Little Rock. This is something that the other media outlets in the state confirmed yesterday.

Today we had a chance to look over the plans for the location officially addressed at 11500 Financial Center Parkway (former Toys R Us location) and can finally add a few details of the plan.

The building is going listed at 15,411 s.f. of total space. In that, they are planning for 10,466 s.f. of total retail area. This means that the total square footage will be on the high end for Trader Joe’s. Most sources quote the average store between 8,000-15,000 s.f. with the typical model being 10,000.

Trader Joes averages $1,734 per square foot on average according to a 2014 report (highest of any retailer, and likely higher now). At the 1.5% sales tax rate, it stands to bring in over $400k in tax revenue for the city.

We are hearing the store is set to open far quicker than we, or anyone else, expected. We are hearing that they have an anticipated construction completion date of September 9th. That puts them opening somewhere between late September and mid-October depending on how aggressive they decide to be with stocking and staffing. So you should be able to sprinkle everything bagel seasoning on all your Thanksgiving dishes.

We will continue to look for progress updates on Trader Joes.

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In 2014, a little over a year after we started Rock City Eats, we had the bright idea to do a roundup of the best vegetarian dishes in Little Rock. We started with the idea of doing vegan but found too few dishes to make a solid list. That “vegetarian-friendly” list hilariously included items like a plain waffle from a food truck, a salad from the Pantry, and a side of slaw from the Fold. It was a hard time for a vegetarian in this city, you may as well eat at home if you were practicing vegan.

The culinary scene has changed a lot since then, and we got a few better options on the vegetarian/vegan front, but it still significantly lags behind other markets. This was something that struck Lindsey and Evan Mathis when they moved to Little Rock after spending time in the culinary worlds of Denver and Portland OR and eventually led to their restaurant, Esters, in SoMa.

Previously Evan worked at Core Brewing, and he and Lindsey both worked across the country in the hospitality scene prior to that. They both saw a fit in SoMa for quality vegan food and leveraged their Core relationship to put in the initial iteration of Esters in the kitchen space.

When Core decided to close the SoMa pub Evan and Lindsey decided to take over the space and turn it into the restaurant they always wanted for Little Rock, with a healthy balance of traditional pub food mixed with solid vegan options.

“We really saw SoMa as a place that we can fit in and add to the surrounding food culture,” Evan explains. “There are already great options around here to eat vegetarian, we felt we could add some additional depth and bring in food that no one was expecting.”

The menu has a carnivore-friendly side as well as a vegan-friendly side. Many of the options are similar with a few substitutions made, and some simply work well on each. On each, you will find a solid selection of sandwiches, wings, burgers, and appetizers.

The surprising part was going through and trying both the vegan and meat-based options side by side was how often I preferred the vegan choice. It is not to say that the meat options are bad, the vegan is just outstanding. Dishes like the roast beef Au’ Jus sandwich brought a lot more flavor on the vegan option than the still-solid traditional beef variant. The black bean-based veggie burger held its own against the traditional beef.

Then there were the wings. Honestly, their vegetarian wings (called nugz) hold their own against any meat variety I’ve had. They use a house-made seitan base that gives it the density of traditional chicken but carries way more flavor than a typical chicken wing. Even as a non-vegan I will probably order these every time over the meat variety.

Also, as a non-vegan, I’ve been careful to view this through my meat-based world view. Talking to a vegan friend who frequently travels she said that she almost cried the first time she ate Esters because it was finally a place at home that is as good as what she finds in other major cities.

The cross over items are also right up there. I’d rank the fries as the best I’ve had in the city, full of flavor and a good crunch while still soft in the middle. The hushpuppies (something I never order) are possibly the best I’ve ever had. They use a heavier flour mixture that brings a totally different texture from anything you have had.

Coming from a previous pub setup, Esters maintains a fair amount of that. They are bringing in a great lineup of local craft beers outside of the original Core offerings. Aesthetic-wise they are slowly increasing the quality of the atmosphere, making it a much nicer overall space. In the back area they are converting it into an arcade featuring a number of cabinets that will continue to grow. It is a nice addition to SoMa having a pub-cade in the area.

Esters is the perfect place to indulge in your veganism, carnivore urgers, or just explore that vegan-curious side that you never knew you had.

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Usually with our First Look feature, we try to get to a restaurant within a week of its grand opening. However, this early summer saw a host of new restaurant openings, and a few fell through the cracks. Taste of Jamaica is one of those we missed. The new spot on Rodney Parham opened pretty quickly in May, and it took a month of us staring at their tempting Facebook posts to get over there. And while we might have missed them to start, after getting our first bite we won’t be making that mistake again. Taste of Jamaica serves up some fantastic food and offers an authentic menu that we just haven’t seen in this city before.

Rose and Tony Walker own Taste of Jamaica, which represents their second food business in Little Rock. The couple used to run the Grab a Bite food truck, which operated out of the parking lot of Discovery for eight years. And while the truck did well, it didn’t reflect the couple’s roots. Tony was born and raised in Jamaica, and he and Rose met in Florida where Caribbean cuisine is easier to find. The Walkers decided it was time to bring their food to Little Rock.

“Jamaican food is a cultural food,” said Tony. “We eat it day in and day out. The signature dish is Ackee and Saltfish, that’s our national dish. Then you have jerk chicken, which comes from way back in the slave days. But it only started developing in Jamaica, this jerk fever, in the 80s and 90s.”

No matter what you order, you will taste the culture. Taste of Jamaica does not apologize for its roots, and that’s a good thing. Some items will be familiar, like the jerk chicken, which is strongly seasoned with the classic garlic and cayenne seasoning mix. I had the dark meat chicken was impressed with the way the flavors penetrated all the way to the bone. Every entrée is served on rice and peas and comes with a tropical stewed cabbage, both of which will be instantly recognizable to most diners.

For my money, the best stuff on the menu is the distinctly Jamaican food. The oxtails just fall off the bone and are rich and packed with flavor. The goat curry just blew me away with its depth of flavor and balance; I could seriously eat this dish every day. And don’t skip on the intriguingly named “beef patty.” That’s a traditional name for a dish that resembles a Jamaican handpie, and it possibly packs the most flavor of anything I tried. Ground oxtail and onions get cooked down with a load of jerk seasoning and stuffed in a flaky pastry for an excellent grab-and-go entrée. No matter what you pick, I’m pretty confident in saying you’re in for a unique treat.

“As long as you’re doing it, it has to be from the heart,” said Rose about her restaurant. “That’s the soul of Jamaican food. You can’t be doing it just for the money.”

The restaurant just received its liquor license, which means a full bar will soon be coming. Tony says he also wants to bring dumplings and yams to the menu soon, which are staples in Jamaican cuisine. No matter what comes, it’s a guarantee that I’ll be going back. Taste of Jamaica is everything I love about food. It is honest, soulful and thrilling cooking that opens a window into a people and culture that you might not otherwise get to experience. Do yourself a favor and stop in soon.

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It is strange to think that just a few years ago we complained about the lack of brunch options in Little Rock. Since then brunch has exploded and is frequently one of the busiest service periods for many restaurants.

The emerging West Village area (West Rodney Parham), however, has not seen the brunch explosion that other areas of the city have experienced. Especially with the B-Side closing a few years ago. Petit & Keet is looking to turn the area into a Sunday brunch hot spot with a new brunch service featuring a solid menu line up.

Part of the menu is a carryover from their sister restaurant, Watercolor, which closed a few weeks ago alongside the Arkansas Arts Center remodel. This planned closing allowed Petit & Keet to work through several solid brunch dishes like their chicken and waffles and pimento cheese skillet. It also gave them a chance to dream up and test all new brunch options that are some of the most unique in town.

There are a few items that are a new take on brunch classics like the Shrimp and Blintz that pairs traditional BBQ shrimp with a gouda blini instead of the traditional grits. The boudin scotch eggs were a particular table favorite that uses boudin instead of traditional sausage around the scotch egg. The smoked salmon & avocado toast is also a nice merger of two brunch favorites.

There are some other great instant favorites that you are not going to get anywhere else on the menu. The pork belly burnt ends were a particularly great version of a traditional breakfast hash. The Berkshire Rib Bacon dish was similarly a great take on a southern breakfast staple. They also added the Desayuno Burger that is a house-ground blend of chorizo and Kobe beef. This burger won them the recent burger championship, so it is nice to see it on the menu as well.

For a real bite of Little Rock nostalgia, there is the Waffle Wagon chicken and waffle sandwich. Former Waffle Wagon food truck owner Matt Clark joined the Petit & Keet kitchen around a year ago and smartly put a version of their chicken and waffles back on the menu. There are a few changes from the original (being in a sandwich for one), but it is a perfect throwback to one of our favorite food trucks of all time in the city.

Speaking of waffles, they do have a sweet side that is highlighted by the Churro Waffles. These cinnamon covered waffles are crisp on the outside while perfectly pillowy inside, then topped with Nutella (because why not). They also feature a biscuit bread pudding and a classic bananas foster for sweets.

Because every brunch needs drinks, they developed a special brunch cocktail menu to go with things. The Cowboy Breakfast was a big highlight that was a whiskey sour, maple syrup, and bacon for good measure. They also whipped up a watermelon mojito that was getting a lot of attention during the preview. For brunch classics, they have an excellent Bloody Mary along with several mimosa options.

Petit and Keet’s brunch officially starts this Sunday and will run from 11-2.

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Two Little Rock restaurants this month have been honored with one of the top awards from Wine Spectator magazine. Sō Restaurant and Bar in Hillcrest and Arthur’s Prime Steakhouse in West Little Rock both received the Best of Awards of Excellence distinction for 2019. It’s the second highest award that the magazine bestows. The Best of Award of Excellence honors those restaurants worldwide that typically offer 350 or more wines and show “excellent breadth across multiple winegrowing regions and/or significant vertical depth of top producers, along with superior presentation.” This is the third straight year for Arthur’s to receive this honor and the fourth consecutive year for Sō.

Nobody in town does mojitos like La Terraza Rum and Lounge, and tomorrow night the restaurant’s expertise will be on full display. National Mojito Day is Thursday, and as always, La Terraza is pulling out all the stops. You can get the excellent house mojito deeply discounted at $6 a glass or a pitcher to share with the table for $20. Specialty mojito pitchers are $30, including the popular coconut mojito and (my favorite) spicy mojito. You can also opt for the mega mojito in a giant glass for $18; specialty mega mojitos are $25. In addition, there will be plenty to eat courtesy of La Terraza’s regular menu. This will be a busy night, so you should make reservations if you plan on going. Call 501-251-8261 or send La Terraza a Facebook message to save your spot.

One of small-town Arkansas’ most iconic restaurants will close at the end of this year. DeVito’s of Eureka Springs has announced it will shut its doors for good on Dec. 31. DeVito’s has served up Italian classics and its famous trout to tourists and locals in Eureka Springs for more than 31 years. If you want to pay a final visit before the restaurant closes, you can go during normal business hours from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. every day except Wednesday. The DeVito family will continue to operate the original location in Harrison and the Bear Creek Springs trout farm.

The brunch craze swept through Little Rock over the past two years, and now it appears to be starting in Hot Springs. Superior Bathhouse Brewery has started a Saturday and Sunday brunch service starting at 9 a.m. The brunch menu features $5 Bloody Mary cocktails, beermosas and a special coffee cocktail. Biscuits, breakfast tacos and breakfast sandwiches make up most of the menu. Of course, you’ll have full access to Superior’s impressive taplist and can pick up some cans or a growler to go. Superior is now open seven days a week: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and now open at 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

A mix of good beer and heavy metal music is coming to Little Rock this weekend. Check out our preview of Lost Forty’s The Legend pilsner brewed in collaboration with Arkansas band Pallbearer.

A North Arkansas farm is doing some impressive work with ingredients raised and grown in Searcy County. We spent an evening at Dogwood Hills Guest Farm and found some special cooking just waiting to be discovered.

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Lost Forty Brewing has partnered with critically acclaimed Arkansas-based doom metal band Pallbearer to celebrate the band’s 10th anniversary. The collaboration features two shows in Arkansas and a collaboration beer that the band helped brew. The beer, called The Legend pilsner, will be debuting this Saturday during a special show at The Rev Room. 

“At first it started as a conversation with co-workers as to how rad it would be to bring these guys in and make a beer with them to quickly becoming a reality,” Lost Forty’s Zac Thompson said. “The band was into the idea so we ran with it.”

The band and the Lost Forty brew team settled on a Czech pilsner for the style. It’s named after the city of Pilsen in what was then Czechoslovakia. The style has been in existence since 1842, which is what drew Lost Forty and Pallbearer in.

“The style being seemingly immortal makes it perfect to be dubbed after a track off of the first Pallbearer album Sorrow And Extinction, titled The Legend,” said Thompson. “The Legend beer is Arkansas-made. Pallbearer vocalist Brett Campbell did the artwork for the can. Devin Holt named the beer and came up the style. Amber Brewer (Lost Forty) worked on the graphic design of the can and all the support and I came up with the recipe but so many people here as well had a hand in this. It was a total team effort. Grant, Dylan, Daniel … so many moving parts and great minds that have collaborated in this experience. ”

Pallbearer’s two Arkansas concerts – this Saturday at The Rev Room and next weekend in Fayetteville – will feature a full-length performance of Sorrow and Extinction, the band’s 2012 blockbuster debut album. Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Consequence of Sound and others rated it among the best albums that year. In addition to the special performance, The Legend pilsner will be available in cans at both shows as well as limited-edition designs for merchandise created in collaboration between band member artists and Lost Forty’s artists. The beer and merchandise will also be featured at Lost Forty’s Freshcut Monday next week at 4 p.m.

Pallbearer formed in 2008 and were awarded the 2017 Metal Hammer Golden God award for Best Underground Band. Thrillist also named Pallbearer the best band from Arkansas in their Best Bands From Every State rankings. The New York Times Magazine cultural critic David Rees described Pallbearer as “one of the most resonant emotional campaigns in American rock music.”

“Pallbearer has affected my life in a positive way ever since I heard the first chord on the first album. It has been wildly interesting to work with one of the most influential bands to have surfaced in the past decade.” Zac says. “The craft of beer meets the craft of music.”

Tickets for Saturday’s concert are $15 and are on sale now.

All photographs are property of Lost Forty Brewing and are used by permission.

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Lost Forty Brewing has a busy week that kicks off today at the taproom. For its Freshcut Monday release, Lost Forty is putting out a couple of large-format bottles. The first is Saison Victoria, a 6.3% ABV farmhouse-style ale with notes of allspice, red apple and tangerine. The brew team says this one finishes dry and crisp. It is only available in 750mL bottles. Lost Forty is also releasing its third iteration of TWIG Solera Table Bier. If you haven’t tried this one before, it’s a light 4.3% ABV brew that gets its mildly sour profile from an open fermentation setup called a foeder. TWIG has been a hit since its debut, and with summer months here it should be extra refreshing. It’s available by the glass and in 750mL bottles to go. Then on Saturday, Lost Forty is teaming up with Arkansas-based heavy rock group Pallbearer to debut The Legend Pilsner that will be available at the band’s concert at The Rev Room and then again next week at the taproom. We’ll have more on that special release tomorrow.

One of the state’s best summer seasonal releases is back this week at Rebel Kettle Brewing Company. For its 4:30 Thursday event, the Rebel Kettle team is bringing back Summer Jam. It’s a 4.5% ABV raspberry sour saison brewed with 600 pounds of raspberry puree. Summer Jam has been one of my favorite Arkansas beers since it first came out, so needless to say I’ll be grabbing a growler very soon. It’s available starting Thursday by the glass and in growlers and crowlers to go.

We are getting close to Buffalo Brewing Company announcing the grand opening of its Heights taproom. Owner Nolen Buffalo tells me his crew is working on getting the décor and final trim installed this week before getting tables and barstools set up. It’s likely we will get an announcement before the end of July at this pace. Buffalo is also building a new brewing facility on Cantrell Road in the same shopping center that Cajun’s Wharf used to be. The brewing facility will also feature a tasting area that will be open to the public. The flooding of the Arkansas River delayed construction there; we’ll keep you posted on when that facility is ready for business.

Stone’s Throw Brewing this week is releasing its tribute to Little Rock’s original brewers. For its #NewBrewFriday release, Stone’s Throw is tapping George Bros. Historic Arkansas Ale. The beer refers to Alexander and Henry George, German-born brothers who operated the first biergarten in Little Rock in the mid-1800s. It’s a 6% ABV saison that mirrors what their beer would have likely looked like, using ingredients available at the time and modeling the brew after the brothers’ regional stylings from their hometown in Germany. You can check out George Bros. Historic Arkansas Ale at the MacPark location on Friday at 4 p.m.

For those of you who enjoy running, Fleet Feet Little Rock is doing a special pub run starting and ending at Flyway Brewing tomorrow night. The 3.4-mile run leaves Flyway for the Broadway bridge, then heads east to the Clinton Center before doubling back and returning to Flyway. The run starts at 6 p.m. Then on Wednesday, its the return of Flyway’s Red Velvet Imperial Red Ale, part of the brewery’s ongoing cake series. This fan favorite is a 8.2% ABV red ale brewed with caramel and chocolate malts and finished with cacao nibs and Madagascar vanilla beans. It tastes just like a red velvet cake, which is a win in my book. That one hits the tapwall Wednesday at 4 p.m. While you’re at Flyway this week, make sure to pick up a 6-pack (or more) of Honeybird Blonde Ale, which is back in cans at the taproom and an ideal brew for sipping during hot weather.

Do you have any beer news to share with us? Email steveshuler@gmail.com.

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While we at Rock City Eats tend to focus on the food scene here in central Arkansas, we’ve discovered plenty of great eats all around the state, too. Arkansas’ highways, byways, and small towns are ripe with numerous excellent restaurants, dairy bars, drive-ins, and bakeries of all sort. In this regular feature, we explore some of these places and encourage you to pull over and sample some of the greatest food from “Around Arkansas.” Next up, we head north to spot with great food and a unique overnight experience – Dogwood Hills Guest Farm in Harriet.

The location

There are several ways to get to Harriet, which is in Searcy County. The most direct route from Little Rock is to take Interstate 40 to Conway and hop onto Highway 65 North. Follow that for about 90 minutes to Marshall, where you’ll switch over to Arkansas 27 North for 20 minutes. Then take Highway 14W for a few miles before hanging a right onto Arkansas 61 North. Dogwood Hills is about half a mile down the road on the left.

The story

Thomas and Ruthie Pepler moved to Arkansas from New Jersey 12 years ago and purchased the farm area, which was little more than trees and a couple of structures. Over the past decade, the family has built up the guest house, found a way to capture water from the natural springs and opened up a new two-story barnhouse with upstairs restaurant. The guest house can be rented out via their website, AirBnB or Farm Stay USA, and guests pitch in on morning chores like milking cows, collecting eggs and feeding the animals. And of course, staying at Dogwood Hills includes a farm-to-table dining experience that I can highly recommend.

The food

In addition to meals for visitors at the guest house, Ruthie and her family put out a once-monthly dinner that is open to the public. Visitors come down the gravel drive and walk up to the balcony on the second-floor dining area with an open view of the farm and its animals. And the food inside reflects the life outside; Pepler estimates 90% of what is served came from the farm or a neighboring farm. We started with a dainty ravioli stuffed with farm-made ricotta and lemon zest served over pea shoots. I was already amazed at how delicate and flavorful the starter was well before I found out the pasta was gluten-free. In fact, everything at Dogwood Hills is gluten-free, though I promise you won’t miss it. The light, fresh notes continued in the second course, a split pea soup made with a deep broth and a dollop of crème fraiche, again made at the farm. There are very few flavors on earth that convey freshness like peas newly removed from the pod, and this soup captured those summery notes perfectly.

A delightful salad of fresh-picked lettuce and blueberries may have been the highlight of the meal; in particular, I wished the blueberry vinaigrette was available in take-home bottles. North Arkansas grows some of the best blueberries I’ve ever eaten, and Pepler’s team did the bare minimum with them, leaving their natural greatness to shine through. The main course of locally raised beef tenderloin, chard and piped potatoes kept things traditional while still showing off the food raised just minutes from the farm.

And then there was the pie. The award-winning pie, I should say, because Pepler’s buttermilk pie (with gluten-free crust!) was the winner of the inaugural Arkansas Pie Festival in Cherokee Village this spring. I was a judge for that contest, and I can merrily report that her win was no fluke. Pepler served this perfect pie for the dessert course with macerated strawberries, and the fruit played off the tang of the buttermilk filling for one of the best bites I’ve had this year. I’ve always said I’m not a dessert guy, but for this pie I am starting to change my mind.

The price

If you want to stay at the farm and get the full experience, there is a two-night minimum and prices generally run around $250 a night for the family. That’s not bad at all, considering the amazing food and hands-on fun you’ll get to have. But if you just want to enjoy the meal, the monthly dinner is $60 per person. The next dinner has not yet been announced, so if I were you I’d make sure to follow Dogwood Hills on Facebook and grab a spot as soon as it’s available. This is an evening you don’t want to miss.

The verdict

“I really like people sitting together at the dinner table,” Pepler told me. “That, to me, is the core of it. Having a meal together as a family with your friends, I think we’re losing that. Sitting across from somebody and talking, we want to encourage that.” The family dining setting is one way Dogwood Hills Guest Farm allows you to network, but for my money, it’s the honest presentation of North Arkansas produce and meat that offers the true chance for connection. This is a loving display of an underappreciated part of our state, one that feel both intimately familiar and wonderfully new at the same time. It’s the Arkansas you know and the one you want to explore. I can’t recommend Dogwood Hills enough.

The info

544 Cozahome Road in Harriet

Drive: It will take you about two hours from Little Rock

Hours: Guest stays by reservation only; dinners served monthly from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on a chosen Saturday

Phone: (870) 448-4870

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Springdale-based Black Apple Crossing cidery is expanding its distribution into Little Rock this week with a slew of release parties. There is a release event every night this week, starting with a Q&A session at Vino’s Brewpub tonight, then Lost Forty Brewing Tuesday, Petit and Keet Wednesday, Dickey-Stephens Park for the Travs game on Independence Day, Flying Saucer and Bar Louie on Friday, Whole Foods and Midtown Billiards on Saturday, and finally Loca Luna on Sunday. By the end of the week, you’ll find Black Apple Crossing on tap at dozens of restaurants in Central Arkansas. Later this summer, you’ll start seeing cans at your favorite Central Arkansas liquor store. We featured Black Apple Crossing in the latest issue of Brewed in Arkansas; you can check that out online here.

The Fourth of July marks both our nation’s birthday and the anniversary of Stone’s Throw Brewing’s first brew day six years ago. Stone’s Throw is celebrating in the grand style it always does: with the release of its Anniversary Stout. This is the imperial version of its beloved Shamus Stout, and at 8.5% ABV, it doesn’t hold back on flavor. As it did last year, Stone’s Throw will also release a 2018 version of Anniversary Stout that has been aging in a Rock Town Distillery whiskey barrel since last year. This release is only at Stone’s Throw’s MacPark location and starts at 4 p.m.

Stone’s Throw will also feature in this week’s new release at Rebel Kettle Brewing Company. The brewery is closed on Independence Day, so it’s a 4:30 Wednesday release for 6th and 9th Hazy IPA. Rebel Kettle brewed this one in collaboration with Stone’s Throw for its Block on Rock birthday party later this month. 6th and 9th is a big 7.7% ABV New England-style IPA packed with Citra, Mandarina Bavaria and Amarillo Cryo hops. There’s also a little mango puree tossed in for an extra juicy profile. By the way, the name refers to the breweries’ locations: Rebel Kettle on 6th Street and Stone’s Throw on 9th. Rebel Kettle is closed both on Tuesday and Thursday, so make sure to get your fix on Wednesday.

Lost Forty Brewing has a refreshing new small batch out today for its Freshcut Monday release. Backyard Blonde Wild Ale starts with pilsner and wheat malts, adds Noble hops, and then gets fermented with wild yeast from a persimmons tree that’s currently growing at Lost Forty. It’s a 5.7% ABV brew with fruity and floral flavors. Since it’s a limited batch, it’s only available by the glass at the taproom. Want some beer to go? Lost Forty is launching its Stock the Cooler promotion this week to get you ready for the Fourth. The centerpiece is a $25 mix-and-match case with your choice of Month of Sundays Amarillo Pale Ale, Blackberry Bramble, or Three-Day Weekend mixed pack. And if sour beers are your thing, you can get any two Wild Barrels Project beers and get a free pair of Lost Forty sunglasses. These deals last all week and through the weekend, so make sure to stop in and take advantage.

And if you’re looking for good catfish this week, stop by Flyway Brewing on Wednesday. Flyway has teamed up with Eat My Catfish for an All American Fish Fry from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m. Eat My Catfish will be cooking up catfish filets all evening that should pair well with $3 cans of Bluewing Berry Wheat. Flyway will also be setting up some outdoor games so the whole family can enjoy the festivities.

Do you have any beer news to share with us? Email steveshuler@gmail.com.

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Restaurant openings are coming fast and frequently this summer in the Little Rock area, and we have three to tell you about this week. First is the newly opened El Mezcal in Hillcrest, in the building that once housed Afterthought Bar and Bistro. Partners Ramiro Valadez and Vicente Hernandez have done an impressive amount of work on the space, which had been left in disrepair when they took over. It’s taken less than seven months to go from having no floors in the building to grand opening. El Mezcal has a different feel from most Arkansas Tex-Mex restaurants, with black leather seats and chandelier light fixtures. The restaurant is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. The restaurant is a cousin to the chain of Cantina Cinco de Mayo restaurants in Central Arkansas.

And just behind El Mezcal, the fourth location of Ohia Poke is almost ready to open. Owner Au Tran is opening the latest spot in the same space that once housed Izard Chocolate. The poke restaurant is a build-your-own-bowl experience for guests, and the limited amount of space plus the walking neighborhood likely means this location will see plenty of to-go business. Ohia Poke opened its first location last year downtown and his since opened spots in the Promenade and in Conway. The Hillcrest location should be ready in the coming days.

Currently open for business is the Little Rock location of the Hot Springs-based Bone’s Chophouse. The new restaurant has taken over on Rahling Road in the spot that once belonged to Arthur’s Prime Steakhouse. Bone’s Chophouse is a classic steakhouse with an a la carte menu and plenty of menu items for those who don’t want to eat beef. The menu in Little Rock is largely the same as the Central Avenue spot in Hot Springs. Bone’s Chophouse is open seven days a week for dinner only, along with a Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Wunderhaus in Conway has a dream dinner pairing this evening when it hosts Ralston Family Farms for a special, five-course rice dinner. If you don’t know, Ralston grows some of the best rice in Arkansas (or anywhere else for that matter), and Wunderhaus is a fantastic farm-to-table restaurant that is fiercely devoted to using local products. The combination should be something special, with dishes like purple rice risotto, golden rice arancini and jasmine dolmas. The dinner is $65 per person, and there are still some seats available. If you don’t have dinner plans for tonight, you really should consider giving this one a shot. Call 501-358-6806 to reserve your seat.

Diners in Saline County will be missing Verona Italian Restaurant for the month of July. The restaurant is closing for the month to undergo some renovations. Verona is one of the better dining choices in Benton, with solid Italian recipes and fresh ingredients. While Verona is closed, its sister restaurant My Little Pizzeria on Salem Road will remain open as usual.

The hot days of summer have many of us reaching for a beer to help cool us down. The Rock City staff picked out its favorite easy-drinking beers made in Central Arkansas to keep you refreshed.

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